Posted by Yaniv Morozovsky

Work with a meaning

10 August 2020

Long hours of editorial work are concentrated into an editorial shift, where knowledge, technique, and timeliness are required - and the ability to tell a bad joke every now and then. From the diary of a news editor

It is late afternoon. The news is being broadcast on the radio, on television they begin to talk about the day's events, and I say good-bye to the family and head out to the news center in Tel Aviv. Sometimes, while listening to the radio, I try to bet with myself - which of these topics will be on the pages that will be mine to edit. Sometimes news breaks out and is broadcast in real time, and I imagine how it's going to change the paper whose plan has already begun.

I arrive at the paper and meet up with the other editors who are preparing for the shift. In the newsroom I find the head of the news desk, who has already been working on the layout, and planning the division of labor among the editors. Next to him sits the head of news production, who has been coordinating communication: monitoring television broadcasts, receiving legal advice or approving censorship on issues that require it. Graphic designers are at the center of the table. Some have just arrived, and others have been sitting at the computer for a few hours, working on the pages of lifestyle, opinions, culture or consumerism.

Also there are the digital desk staff, who constantly edit and update the site and the app, and of course the proofreaders, who maintain the level of Hebrew and help us to minimize linguistic errors and everyday typing mistakes.

At about six in the evening, the head of the news desk gathers the night editors. In the conference room, he relates to us the topics planned in the next newspaper and gives each of us a kind of "instruction page" that lists the pages we are responsible for, the topics that are intended for them, the arrangement of the ads and more.

We go back to our desks, and start working. We start by talking to the reporters listed on the page, in which we "order up" the materials we need and the number of words we can use. Then we connect to the graphic designer and with him sketch out the initial layout of the page. From there we go to the photography coordinator, and request from him all the pictures needed on our pages.

Right before editing, it is very important to make sure that I'm not missing any facts about the subject. I do this most often by reading background material, archival articles, and, of course, reading all the information about the story as published on several websites. If it is an ongoing story it is important to look at the articles we published on the subject in the last few days in order to be aware of what the readers already know. When the clock shows two minutes to eight, I check the TV screens and watch the articles and commentary on the various channels.

When the reporter completes his work and transfers the material to the system, it reaches the head of the news desk, who in turn examines it and passes it on to me. The work of editing, which will be discussed in detail in the next article, is a combination of several tasks: First and foremost, in my opinion, is to be precise about facts and names. The second is to tell the story in an interesting way, while emphasizing the essence of the story by moving it to the beginning of the article. My third task, which was the most difficult at first, is the formulation of the headlines and sub-headlines. I will also cover this separately. Another difficulty not to be overlooked is making sure that the text is within the area assigned it. Sometimes a fascinating story of 500 or 600 words must be limited to 150 words, a real challenge to shrink the story, but to leave juicy content that interests readers.

All these always has to be done while keeping an eye on the clock. After "News at Eight", for the most part, we are all already well into editing the stories. Sometimes, due to lack of time, we are forced to make concessions. Sometimes 10 more minutes could have improved the result, but there is a clear rule in the newsroom: By the deadline, usually at 11 PM, the pages must have been sent to press. No exceptions.

Along with this challenge, most shifts also make changes throughout the evening. Interesting news worthy of inclusion in the newspaper instead of other news, exclusive exposés by our reporters, or a change in the order of the ads. All these bring a lot of stress to work, but you have to adapt, and work as efficiently as possible within the time frame.

The clock shows ten, and the head of the desk announces that there's less than an hour left. My texts pass through the eyes of the proofreaders, continue to the graphic designer and return to me for a last check. At the same time, I transfer the relevant photos I received from the photo editor (and here, too, it is no easy task choosing a "Prime" winner out of dozens or hundreds of photographs). Text that comes back to me after proofing and formatting requires adjustments. In most cases, you need to shorten it, or adjust the length of the title and subtitle so that the result looks good on the page.

Ten-thirty. I've edited all the texts, and made adjustments for most of them. In the newsroom there is now a noticeable atmosphere, sometimes it's of pressure and shouting, sometimes one tells a joke and there's a liberating laugh. It's as though we're all on one ship, and we have to get to port before the last drop of fuel runs run out. When my page is ready I glance at it one last time and print it. It's time to get the OK of my superiors.

First, the head of the news desk, then the news editor and deputy editor, and then the editor-in-chief. Each of them usually asks for corrections and changes - some in content, others in design. While the changes are being made, the proofreaders again glance at the page, as does the photography coordinator, who makes sure that all the photographers have received accurate credit for their work.

Three minutes to eleven, the editor looks at the page, asks questions, reads the headlines and hands back the paper. I run from his room at one end of the floor to my designer at the other end and tell him to send the page to print. Within a minute it will arrive as a file that will be transferred to the plate, and the large printing presses in Bat Yam will be able to start working.

11 pm. All the pages have been sent to print, we were on time. We usually sit around for a few more minutes to relieve the tension. We pack up and return home. In my house everyone is already asleep. When they gets up in the morning they can open the door, take the newspaper that is waiting outside the door, read it - and try to guess which pages I edited.

So, how does one edit text? For this, see the next article.